Leona Maguire has secured her full Ladies European Tour status for next season after a gripping final day’s play at Qualifying School in Morocco.
The Cavan professional forced her way into the coveted top-5 who secured full status with some stunning final day play but found herself tied in 5th with Sarah Nillson after the Swede birdied her final hole to also reach 13-under-par.
With the pair inseparable after 90 holes of golf, Maguire closing with a superb bogey-free 67 to Nillson’s 66, a playoff was needed to finalise the last spot and it was the former World Number One Maguire who went to the well for water and came up with a bucket of gold.
The Cavan star held her nerve to sink her birdie putt from 15 feet to land the decisive blow at the first time of asking and earn her Ladies European Tour stripes for next season.
“I’m delighted,” said Maguire. “I knew going into the play-off that that one spot would make a huge difference for next year. I’m just delighted that I could birdie it and get that fifth spot. I’m excited to play with some new golfers in new places.
“I think I’ll go home and enjoy Christmas with the family and plan my schedule in the new year. I’d like to win an event. This is my first year as a pro, the last few months, so it will be good to get my first year under my belt and see where that takes me.”
Splitting her time between Symetra Tour and Continental commitments is sure to prove challenging but securing her LET status is yet another stepping stone in a career of so many for Leona Maguire. With her first full off-season under her belt before starting her 2019 golfing journey, the sky’s the limit for the Cavan star next year and we wish her every success along the way.
As for the other qualifiers, England’s Bronte Law set a new record at Lalla Aicha Tour School with a winning five-round total of 26-under-par.
After rounds of 70, 71, 62, 64 and 67, she finished one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Linnea Ström, who ended with a final round of 66 at Amelkis Golf Club in Marrakesh.
The 23-year-old from Stockport said: “I’m very happy. I played some very good golf this week and coming into it, I hadn’t had much time to practise and prepare due to having an injury. I worked my way into the week and playing some good golf in the end was really nice. I’m definitely looking forward to next year and building off this experience. It means a lot, coming from England, even though I live in the States now, this is my home and it’s important to support the Ladies European Tour and I look forward to being a member of the Tour.”
Law started her final round by sinking a 15-footer for birdie on the first hole and then made a tricky six footer for another gain on the fifth, before hitting a wedge to within tap-in distance on the sixth. Her next birdie came on the eighth, where she converted a putt from eight feet.
After 41 holes without a bogey, she dropped her only shot of the day on the 10th, where she three-putted, but then almost made a hole-in-one at the 13th. Another birdie followed on the 14th, where she tapped-in for a total of 26-under. After making great putts on 15, 16 and 17, which all burned the edge of the hole, she found the bushes left of the fairway from the 18th tee and had to chip out, but she reached the green in three and had two putts for the win.
Qualifying for next year’s European Solheim Cup team is now a priority and she added: “That’s something that I really want to be a part of. I love team golf, always have, and there’s something about match play that I really enjoy. It will absolutely be my goal next year to make sure that I’m on that team.”
Next year’s European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew commented: “It was great to see Bronte commit to going to Q-School and furthermore have such a successful week. She has been on my radar for selection for a while now and playing this week shows her commitment to the LET and as a consequence of that being eligible to represent Team Europe at Gleneagles next year.”
Ström, 23, from Hovas, another strong Solheim Cup prospect, commented: “Of course I wanted to win today, but Bronte played well as always and I knew that it would be a tough last day. I didn’t really get my putts dropping at the beginning of the round and I finished off with four straight birdies, so I gave it a shot, but overall I’m very happy with my game.”
Germany’s Esther Henseleit finished in third on 18-under-par after a final round of 64, which included nine birdies and one bogey. The 20-year-old from Hamburg commented: “It means a lot. I was an amateur and now I will turn professional and that’s just amazing! That was my big goal for this year and it’s a great end to a great season.”
England’s Sian Evans, 27, who works full-time as a PGA professional at Kings Hill Golf Club in Kent, finished in fourth place on 16-under-par. She set up a Just Giving page to fund the trip to Tour School and was slightly tearful after proving to herself that she could mix it with the best.
She said: “This has literally the best week I could have asked for and I couldn’t have done it without my caddie, Jake. He’s been my rock this week. I’ve had loads of messages already and I’m so glad I’ve done everyone proud. This means the world, it’s what everyone dreams of. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to do this and to shoot 16-under, it’s my lowest tournament score, so I’m just really happy.”